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Solar Energy

 

Basic technical and economic information

Solar Energy uses the sun's radiation directly to obtain energy. The branch of solar energy is composed of Thermal Energy and Photovoltaic Energy.

Solar Thermal Techniques are based on concentration of the heating effect of solar radiation and transference to certain fluids. Low-Temperature Thermal Energy is used for different applications such as hot water, heating of swimming pools, space heating or cooling (absorption machines) through panels or tube panels. Solar thermal technologies of Medium and High-Temperature can be used from concentrated solar thermal power plants to produce electricity. Parabolic trough, power tower, dishes and Fresnel reflectors are the technology applied in industrial heat production, grid-connected plants or indoor.

Solar Photovoltaic system technology based on the semiconductor materials attributes can transform the energy radiated from the sun into electrical energy without the use of mechanical processes (moving parts) or any chemical reactions. Flexible and rigid panels, monocrystalline and polycrystalline technology is applied to autonomous systems (dwellings, telecommunication stations est.) and grid-connected systems.

The Solar Energy Market offers more than 40,000 full-time jobs in Europe, where the industry has forged a clear technology leadership in the generation of solar thermal and cooling. Solar energy generates economic benefits by reducing the costs associated with the burning of imported fossil fuels or the use of electricity for heating and cooling and creating jobs and economic wealth in the production, marketing and installation of solar thermal systems.

European manufacturers are technology leaders in the international sector of solar energy in the last 20 years. New markets are emerging despite the lack of incentives to individual consumers.

The European photovoltaic market once again reached its peakin 2007, thanks to the dynamism of the German market, a market dominated (estimated in 1150 MWp in 2006) when compared with production from other European countries ranging from a few kWp tens of MWp

The solar thermal technologies are directed toward three market segments with completely different characteristics: Low-Temperature, Passive solar and Medium and High-Temperature.

The most relevant technologies in Low-Temperature area are related to improving the design, manufacturing processes, remote control systems, improving the efficiency of low-temperature solar collectors, building integration, always towards reducing costs. Some of the technological priorities are: research and development of advanced solar panels, new technologies for power generation from heat concentrating systems, design of facilities for wastewater energy, development of new solar cooling, etc.

In the passive solar energy sector, the main priorities are oriented towards design tools for bioclimatic systems, new materials and integrated energy storage systems to improve energy efficiency in buildings.

For technologies in the high-temperature sector and photovoltaics, research and development requires continued efforts to reduce costs that make this energy commercially viable.

 

Territorial Footprint

Security and safety issues: Silicon is the main material used in the manufacture of solar panels, and neither is toxic or contaminant but during production of the plates, heavy metals like lead are often used

In the fabrication process must take care with some thin-film cells because during the manufacture small quantities of cadmium are used and can cause a problem of toxicity. What must be clear, is that the management of chemicals and heavy metals used in the manufacture of these plates is tightly controlled by the chemical industry, and once the module is finished, there is no danger.

Environmental impact: Besides the security measures taken in the production of the panels, it is necessary to implement a recycling treatment of solar panels at the end of its useful life. Thin-film cells should be treated by their content of cadmium, and silicon as well (not because they are dangerous, but because in the end are scraped). In fact, although it will be several years before an important part of photovoltaic modules complete their life cycle, there is already a European program, PV Cycle, which ensures the module collection and recycling 85% of its waste.

Impact on the quality of life and nuisance involved: No problems are seen in terms of pollution by chemicals, noise, etc. It is true that solar panels have a visual impact, specially large extensions

Impact on the landscape and local cultural and architectural heritage: There may be certain architectural barriers when installing solar panels on buildings. Large surfaces are needed for electricity production. Nowadays photovoltaic solar energy is made to be installed on public buildings as sport centers, schools or even on industrial roofs. Although it seems a good idea to take the most of the buildings (because you can take advantage of that installation using the energy you generate) that technology it's only applied on big consumers for the reason that they are able to invest on solar energy

Network implied in the implementation of the technologies used in solar branch: construction and energy network (connection to the electricity)

Impact on the "traditional" economic fabric: there no competition between technologies used in solar branch and "traditional" skills and activities (crowding effect)

 

SWOT Analysis

 

STRENGTHS

  • High social awareness to save energy and the environment

  • Technical Edification Code adapted for the introduction of these technologies

  • Wide dissemination of clean technologies

  • Policy development

  • The Spanish Photovoltaic industry has a production capacity, resources and infrastructure of first level in the international context

  • The technological capacity of research centers is high

  • At present all the autonomous communities have rules and budgets which provide funding for solar thermal systems.

WEAKNESSES

  • Insufficient profitability if not covered by support for investment

  • Lack of initiatives and incentives for the development of innovative facilities

  • Uncertainty about funding sources

  • Doubts about the medium and high temperature STE on certain technicalities, such as the working fluid, etc ..

  • Lack of specialized companies dedicated to the manufacture of components in medium and high temperature STE

OPPORTUNITIES

  • Further developing this technology could be introduced more efficient in sectors such as industry

  • The lack of companies specializing in the manufacture of components STE Medium and High temperature can become an opportunity to open a "new" market

  • Improvements in technology and optimization of solar cell production, improvement and modernization of manufacturing systems aimed at reducing specific costs. New concepts that consume less material and better exploit the spectrum

  • Research and development of technologies to improve wave quality and safety of the network connection. Optimization of investors

THREATS

  • Stagnant manufacturing technology

  • Intrusion agents do not specialize in this type of facility

  • Temporarily, lack of raw materials in the international market. In recent years, the photovoltaic industry has been supplying raw material (solar grade silicon) that is derived from products or processes shared with the electronics industry. The increase in both sectors is causing tensions in the markets, against which the Photovoltaic system can be adversely affected by economic scheme of lower value-added

  • The maintenance of the facilities is becoming a critical factor.


 

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